The Couch Lady Indians used offensive rebounding to stay in the game early, while relying on defensive pressure late to post a 49-36 win over the Koshkonong Lady Bluejays in the first round of the Big Spring Conference Tournament Jan. 24 at Eminence High School.
Second-chance points thanks to good board work in the first period kept Couch, the number two seed, close to the Lady Jays early, as Koshkonong held the lead for the biggest part of the game's first two periods of play.
The third-seeded Lady Jays got off to the fast start they needed, jumping in front 5-2 behind a jumper from Ashley Holesapple (seven points) and traditional 3-point play by Kendra Hall.
Traci Murdock (nine points) gave Couch a brief lead, 6-5, at the 4:00 mark of the first with a 3-ball.
Koshkonong immediately erased the Lady Indians' lead with four straight points that staked the Lady Jays to a 9-6 advantage.
Had the Lady Indians not had their way on the offensive backboard in the first period, the Lady Jays might have been up by more than one, 11-10 late in the first.
As it was, Koshkonong did get a big rebound just before the end of the frame, with Johna Wade grabbing a missed shot and sticking back in the hoop. Wade was fouled in the act and canned a free throw with no time showing on the clock to extend the Lady Bluejays' advantage to 14-10 after one. Wade paced Koshkonong with 10 points.
It took Couch less than two minutes of work in the second period to catch up to Koshkonong.
Kassi Burr (four points) hit a jumper and Murdock added a layup off a steal to knot the game at 14-all.
The remainder of the second would be tight sledding, with four points being the biggest lead either side would enjoy.
Koshkonong used back-to-back hoops from Mandy Driskell (four points) and Kayla French (six points) to edge out in front 18-14.
With 5:59 left before halftime, Lorra Wicker (seven points) pulled Couch within one, 18-17, on an old-fashioned 3-point play.
The Lady Jays were on top 22-17 when the Lady Indians closed the book on the first half with five straight points from Caitlyn Melton (seven points). She jacked a triple and then hit two free throws to send the teams to the half with the game squared at 22-all.
The difference in the third period turned out to be Kandy York.
York recorded 11 of her game-high 15 points in the frame for Couch, as the Lady Indians grabbed the lead and refused to give way to Koshkonong over the course of the last two periods.
Opening the stanza with an 8-2 burst, Couch held a 30-24 lead with 4:48 left in the third.
The Lady Jays cut Couch's lead to 35-30 with a layup from French at the 2:28 mark of the third. This shot turned out to be Koshkonong's last field goal of the game.
With Couch in front 39-32 after three, the Lady Bluejays could manage just four points, all on free throws, in the last period of play, as the Lady Indians closed strong to post a 13-point win over Koshkonong.
Sandy LaBahn ended the game with seven points for Couch.
Katlyn Kazen recorded four points for the Lady Bluejays, while Taylor Manger added two.
The Lady Indians fell in the championship round of the tourney to the top-seeded Van Buren Lady Bulldogs Jan. 28.
Van Buren jumped in front 14-6 after the first period and survived a Couch rally in the second to take a 23-19 lead to the half, en route to a tight 42-37 victory for the Lady Bulldogs.